Addressing a news conference on Saturday evening, 12 December, the coordination committee of 32 farmers’ unions accused the Narendra Modi government of trying to make divides among them and weaken the continued farmers’ protest.
However, the unions stressed that they’re united in their aim – a complete repeal of the three farm laws gone by the Centre.
This article will attempt to answer three questions:
- How has the govt allegedly tried to divide the unions?
- Why it’s going to have tried to isolate the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan)?
- How has unity been maintained despite differences?
How Govt Allegedly Tried to Divide Unions?
The selective invitation to certain union leaders for the meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah earlier in the week is being seen together of those attempts to make divides.
The biggest farmers’ organisation – BKU (Ugrahan) – was overlooked of the meeting, causing a quick misunderstanding.
The BKU (Ugrahan) expressed its displeasure and said that the representatives shouldn’t have gone because all unions had not been invited. The outfit also acknowledged that the govt had invited it separately for talks in November, but that did not happen because the BKU (Ugrahan) wanted all the organisations to be included.
However, the organisations, whose leaders did attend the meeting, clarified that they didn’t know that the BKU (Ugrahan) wasn’t invited and located out only after gathering for it.
The unions say that they’re all on an equivalent page, regarding the stress also because the future course of action.
The other attempt was when Union Minister Piyush Goyal alleged that the protest had been “infiltrated by Maoist elements” and was “hardly a farmers’ protest”.
At an occasion at FICCI on Saturday, Goyal said, “The demands raised on a farmers’ platform to release the so-called intellectuals and poets clearly demonstrates that the efforts to derail farm law improvements is perhaps within the hands of certain elements, not for the great of India.”
The reference was to BKU (Ugrahan), showing posters of activists who are arrested, to mark the Human Rights Day.
However, the outfit’s chief, veteran activist Joginder Singh Ugrahan, explained: “These intellectuals and writers are arrested for criticising this government. Why should we not mention them?”
Another way the Centre has tried to divide the unions is by pushing the narrative that the govt has made several compromises, but it’s the unions who are being rigid. It expects that at some point, a number of the farmers’ outfits would be compelled to accept amendments and withdraw from the protest.
Why Has Govt Tried to Isolate BKU (Ugrahan)?
The Ugrahan group isn’t a part of the coordination committee formed by 32 outfits from Punjab. However, the committee and therefore the Ugrahan group’s leadership are coordinating their efforts as their demands are an equivalent , as has been the case with farmers’ groups from outside Punjab also .
“They aren’t a part of the committee of the 30 organisations. But our aims are an equivalent , so we work together. Our only demand is that the repeal of the three laws,” Kisan Sangharsh Committee’s Kanwalpreet Singh Pannu said during a news conference on Saturday.
Many other union representatives have said that there is no disagreement regarding the calling for the discharge of incarcerated activists, while also maintaining that it isn’t a neighborhood of any formal demands.
BKU (Ugrahan) faced criticism from outside the Kisan Union quarters for not including Sikh activists booked under the UAPA in Punjab.
Importance of the BKU (Ugrahan)
It is important to know why the govt could also be singling this group out.
The Ugrahan group is that the biggest of the Kisan unions – consistent with estimates it’s over a lakh protesters camped at Delhi’s borders.
The group is additionally known to pursue more aggressive methods. Its cadres were actively involved within the gherao of BJP leaders in Punjab and therefore the demonstrations outside Reliance and Adani-run establishments. a number of the opposite unions also adopted an equivalent methods in their areas of influence.
These tactics proved to be extremely effective, resulting in the resignation of an outsized number of BJP functionaries in Punjab.
In the past, the Ugrahan group has also closely coordinated with the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union, which represents farm labourers. This helped expand the bottom of protests.
The group is understood to make solidarity with diverse outfits even on non-agrarian issues – be it the anti-CAA movement or the protests against the revocation of Article 370 – because it believes that those at the receiving end of the government’s “arrogance” got to be supported.
The huge numbers and aggressive methods makes BKU (Ugrahan) the foremost dangerous union for the govt , and this might are a reason why it’s tried to isolate this group.
How Has Unity Been Maintained?
There are both short-term and long-term reasons why the efforts to divide the unions haven’t succeeded.
These reasons mainly stem from the energy of the protesters themselves. The farmers’ deep resentment with the govt has pushed the unions to remain united, strive towards common aims and coordinate their efforts.
For instance, BKU (Ugrahan) wasn’t keen on coming to Delhi and wanted to continue protesting in Punjab. But, it had been the keenness of lay protesters that compelled it to imitate .
Then, another farmers’ outfit is claimed to possess been hospitable accepting the government’s suggestion to protest at the Nirankari Grounds in Burari, but other unions and lots of lay protesters decided to remain put at Delhi’s borders.
It is due to the protesters’ drive to urge these three laws repealed that any possible diversion is being avoided. So, while on one hand, the 32 unions has sidestepped the Ugrahan group’s demand for the discharge of political prisoners, on the opposite , actor Deep Sidhu had to apologise for creating negative comments about communists.
Furthermore, it’s for an equivalent reasons that thus far no union has openly expressed willingness to accept anything but an entire repeal of the three laws. Anyone who does which will run the danger of being called out by protesters.
Basically, the lay protester doesn’t want the movement to weaken at any cost, until the stress are met. Why that’s the case stems from long-term reasons.
It must be remembered that the farmers’ resentment isn’t only thanks to the three laws but also due to a bigger neglect by the govt of agriculture.
In Punjab, another reason for the agitation are Sikhs’ concerns with the forward march of Hindutva and federalist fears thanks to an expanding Centre.
Coming back to farmers, with debt and costs increasing for farmers across the country and really little help coming from the govt , many are finding agriculture increasingly unviable.
In this context, the MSP and therefore the Mandi system is that the last layer of protection for several farmers.
Therefore, for them, the repeal of the laws is that the middle path and not an extreme demand because the government and parts of the media are presenting it to be.
Harmeet Singh Kadian of the BKU (Kadian) says, “These laws are a warrant for farmers. If they are not repealed, it might be the top for us. That’s why we’ve to struggle till these laws are repealed.”
It is this sentiment that has attracted thousands of farmers from Haryana to what was initially a Punjab-led protest.
Even farmers from outside these two states, who aren’t hooked in to the MSP system, have joined in because many of them also are reeling under debt and government’s apathy.
From the purpose of some unions, too, there are important long-term reasons.
The BKU’s dominance over Punjab’s agrarian politics came as a results of the revolution and therefore the rise of relatively prosperous farmers. This enabled the BKU to edge out Left unions.
However, the Centre clamped down on all types of political mobilisation in Punjab between 1984 and 1992, which affected both the BKU and Left unions. By the time this ban was lifted, both sets of unions were faced with an identical challenge – representing farmers’ interests within the context of economic liberalisation and globalisation.
This created space for coordination between the BKU and Left unions also as within the various factions of the outfit.
The Modi government’s farm laws, which can completely make farmers susceptible to corporate interests, are being seen by them because the final nail within the coffin. Hence, the united push to urge them repealed.